Opening a new inn with a new name in Vermont is challenging enough these days, but what if you are embarked on rebuilding an inn and its reputation?
The task is certainly more challenging and you have to work that much harder. You need plenty of accolades, not just customer satisfaction. Those are the challenges being faced by Jane and David Sandelman at the Inn at Weathersfield, near Springfield. They bought the inn about a year ago and have been steadily perfecting their room services while providing an outstanding dining experience.
With Jane having a background in marketing and David's computer experience, it is not surprising that such improvements include wireless internet in the rooms. Jane also does a regular newsletter and periodically sends out the latest menu offerings via E-mail to prospective customers. It is all part of the effort to get the word out.
The atmosphere in the dining room is genteel, reflecting the inn's quiet luxury. The only major change here seems to be the removal of the library. Books were everywhere during the reign of the previous owners.
Working with their executive chef, Scott Myers, the Sandelman’s have created an exciting series of menus coupled with a comprehensive wine list. There’s a featured red and white wine that changes with the changes in the menu. On the night we were there, the selection was a white New Zealand wine called Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Marlborough, while the red was from a small California winery called Abundance Vineyards. The label on the bottle said “Abundantly Rich Red 2001, Sonoma. Both of these wines are worth picking up at a retail store if you happen to see them.
The menu is changed frequently in order to take advantage of such factors as availability of local produce and creativity of the chef. Myers picks out the best he can get of local produce in spring, summer and fall, and keeps careful tabs on the inn's food suppliers during the winter. On the evening that we were there, we had Asian Marinated Venison Flank Steak and Seared Pink Peppercorn Crusted Sea Scallops as an appetizer.
The venison was served in a banana and tamarind BBQ sauce. I had never eaten venison quite like this. It wasn’t stringy and tasted delicious. If you ever see venison on the menu here, you have to try it. My dining companion had the scallops which were sweet and light reflecting their freshness. The watercress puree and white truffle oil was an excellent complement.
Our salads were Meslun Greens with orange, tomato and mint vinaigrette with Lazy Mountain Ash Cheese. The second choice was Warm Spinach Salad served with oven-roasted plum potatoes, balsamic vinegar, sliced garlic and rosemary. I am not a big salad eater but the salads were very fresh and my companion found her spinach salad delicious.
There were six entrees offered for the main course; these included Grilled Smoked Pork Tenderloin, Braised Vermont Lamb Shank, Sauteed Moulard Duck Breast, Sauteed Filet Mignon, Seared Tuna and Risotto. My companion had the steak. It was almost like Kobe beef, succulent, soft and delicious. The dish came with red cabbage, red potatoes and a wild mushroom sauce. I had the breast of duck with wild rice and a black plum-date sauce. The duck was sliced and was equally delicious.
Our desserts were a rich Chocate Torte and Crème Brule. The chocolate was as rich and tasty as any I have tasted, but the Creme Brule could have done with a re-heat on its top crust.
The Weathersfield Inn is not the type of place where one asks for a “doggie bag.” The food is refined and the portion sizes reflect sophisticated, big city dining, which means you don’t get a plate piled high with potatoes. Prices are typical for a high class restaurant. Entrees range in price from about $14.00 all the way up almost $30. The featured wine is usually around $30 and $8 to $9 per glass. Two people can expect to pay at least $100 here. You will find the Weathersfield Inn a definitely worthwhile and memorable dining experience.
The Inn is located just 9 miles off US 91 on scenic Route 106. Click here for a map.
Timothy Palmer-Benson, February 2004